Since I was gone last week & will be gone next week, Kylle has kindly allowed me to post my random thoughts/questions about all things Anna. The post is painfully long, but I’ve put my questions in bold. And that’s the part I’d really like to have your thoughts on. ~Shanda
While I liked this book, overall I have to admit that it was unfulfilling in the sense that it was just too much to take in & unpack. I marveled over & over at Tolstoy’s ability to connect with so many varying emotions, but the descriptions kind of disappear in the volume of the epic telling. Maybe I just read it too quickly. Once again, Oprah didn’t let me down. I pulled two notes off the Oprah website which I thought were interesting.
1. “For Anna, the experience of love led to death; for Levin, the experience of death has led him to a new love of life. Levin is no stranger to the despair that overwhelms Anna and even contemplates suicide for himself, yet he goes on living—and making a life for himself that seems incredibly full.”
2. “When first editing the book for publication, Tolstoy’s editor refused to publish Part Eight—Tolstoy incurred the cost of publishing the last section of the novel himself. He still had something to say about the inner peace that eluded his tragic heroine but inconspicuously surrounded his unassuming hero.”
First, the death of Anna didn’t play out the way I had anticipated…it just happened so quickly. I’ve wondered quite a bit at the reasoning for why Tolstoy wrote the scene the way he did. Specifically, Anna tries to jump once & misses. Then she has to wait & jump again. I can understand this possibly emphasizing that the decision to commit suicide wasn’t a mere whim. But in the moment that she’s about to die, she tries to save herself.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense in terms of the portrayal of Anna as trapped. For Anna, choices were no longer between good & evil, happiness or sadness – every decision was ambivalent at best. To me, this is the thing that kept me from liking Anna. I never believed that her circumstances had trapped her, robbing her of her happiness. I certainly believe that lots of people are trapped in impossible circumstances. And I wouldn’t be so foolish or naïve as to think that every circumstance can be overcome. To me, Anna’s choices and her attitude were making her miserable. I never was sold on the idea that changing her circumstances would make her happy. And her circumstances never justified her behavior to me.
Of course, I’ve never been trapped in an unloving marriage or had an affair or had children that I felt indifferently about, so what do I know? Question: Did you sympathize with Anna? What was your reaction to her behavior?
I also enjoyed seeing into Levin’s thoughts in Part VIII – his loss of identity, his quiet despair & thoughts of suicide & the reconciliation of his faith. Question: At the very end, when Levin comes to a final reconciliation about God & faith, he questions whether or not he should share this with Kitty & then decides not to, even though he wants to. I’m wondering if you felt that decision was justified & if you would act similarly or differently in similar situations.
My favorite part of the book was chapters 14-20 of Part V. I loved Levin’s thoughts on how the first 2 months of marriage had changed his live. I just thought it was stated so beautifully.
Levin had been married two months. He was happy, but not at all in the way he had expected to be. At every step he found disenchantment in his former dreams, and new, unexpected enchantment. He was happy; but on entering upon family life he saw at every step that it was utterly different from what he had imagined. At every step he experienced what a man would experience who, after admiring the smooth, happy course of a little boat on a lake, should get himself into that little boat. He saw that it was not all sitting still, and floating smoothly; that one had to think too, not for an instant forgetting where one was floating; and that there was water under one, and that one must row; and that his unaccustomed hands would be sore; and that it was only easy to look at; but that doing it, though very delightful was very difficult.
As a bachelor, when he had watched other people’s married life, had seen the petty cares, the squabbles, the jealousy, he had only smiled contemptuously in his heart. In his future married life there could be, he was convinced, nothing of that sort; even the external forms, indeed, he fancied, must be utterly unlike the life of others in everything. And all of a sudden, instead of his life with his wife being made on an individual pattern, it was, on the contrary, entirely made up of the pettiest details, which he had so despised before, but which now, by no will of his own, had gained an extraordinary and indisputable importance. And Levin saw that the organization of all these details was by no means so easy as he had fancied before.
And again, there’s so much there with the argument between Kitty & Levin about going with Levin to see his dying brother, his brother receiving Extreme Unction, the differing responses to Levin’s brother & his eventual death. And then, Kitty’s pregnancy at the end of it all.